Product Details
List Price:
7 to 10
2 to 5
Trim Size:
8" x 10"
Calkins Creek
ISBN-13: 978-1-62979-555-3
Full-color illustrations
Lexile Level:

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About the Book


The story, rhythms, and passions of Lil Hardin Armstrong—legendary jazz pianist, composer, bandleader and female pioneer on the music stage—are captured in this first-person picture-book biography.“I was born to swing, and that’s the truth.” In this upbeat picture book, award-winning author Mara Rockliff brilliantly relates the words of “Hot Miss Lil” Hardin Armstrong, a legendary but relatively unknown jazz star. At a time when most women in music were singers, Armstrong achieved fame as a bandleader and composer and “swung” with early jazz greats like the trumpeter who became her husband, Louis Armstrong. Her passion for music put her at the front and center of big bands, and led her to Paris where le jazz hot was all the rage. This biography of a groundbreaking female artist includes an author’s note, a timeline, a partial discography, a bibliography, and archival images.


“Rockliff relates the jazz pioneer's story in Lil Hardin's imagined and enthusiastic first person, her conversational address developing an appropriately big personality…Wood's bright, naïve acrylics complement the narrative style.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Chronicling the life of Lil Hardin Armstrong, the illustrations and first-person text showcase an exuberance evident in the life of “Miss Lil,” who pioneered not only female musicianship in jazz, but jazz itself. The “Jazz Wonder Child” dances through every page, a lively yellow-clad figure swirling and swinging…Wood relies on yellow to draw the eye to important features on each page and to drench the book in the fervor and delight Lil Hardin clearly felt for music.” –School Library Journal    

“Rockliff brings immediacy to her story… (and) Wood’s thickly painted acrylics bring rolling momentum to the pages. A joyful portrait of a musician who made her mark on the jazz world.” –Publishers Weekly  

“(H)appily uplifting... Wood’s heavily brushed acrylics are sassy and vibrant, and the…faces…rivet readers on the human drama, not just the musical genre.” -  The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books  

“(I)n this jazzy picture book…(b)oth the chatty text and acrylic illustrations…are enthusiastic and engaging. Children who may have little experience with jazz will still get a sense of its innovation and the excitement it brought to performers and audiences alike.” - Booklist  

Meet the Author

Mara Rockliff

Mara Rockliff is the author of many historical picture books, including Anything but Ordinary Addie and Around America to Win the Vote, as well as the Cook Prize-winning book Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Visit

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Meet the Illustrator

Michele Wood

Michele Wood is an illustrator, painter, filmmaker, designer, and philanthropist. She is the illustrator of many picture books, including I See Rhythm by Toyomi Igus, for which Michele won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award; I Lay My Stitches Down by Cynthia Grady; and Chasing Freedom by Nikki Grimes. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. Visit

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